If You Can't Get Them to Stop Using Drugs, at Least You Can Get Them to Make Fun of You


A Government Accountability Office report on research tracking the impact of the federal government's $1.2 billion anti-drug ad campaign concludes that "the evaluation provides credible evidence that the campaign was not effective in reducing youth drug use, either during the entire period of the campaign [1998 to 2004] or during the period from 2002 to 2004 when the campaign was redirected and focused on marijuana use." The GAO adds that "exposure to the advertisements generally did not lead youth to disapprove of using drugs and may have promoted perceptions among exposed youth that others' drug use was normal….Westat's evaluation indicates that exposure to the campaign did not prevent initiation of marijuana use and had no effect on curtailing current users' marijuana use, despite youth recall of and favorable assessments of advertisements." In fact, during some periods and for some subgroups, exposure to the ads was significantly associated with an increased tendency to smoke pot.

Meanwhile, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which initially produced ads for the campaign but parted ways with the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the later years, insists that "Anti-Drug Advertising Works," citing "a growing body of evidence." Upon closer examination, however, this evidence consists almost entirely of post hoc, ergo propter hoc assertions.

But what do you expect from an organization that recently bragged about its iconic and unintentionally comic "This Is Your Brain on Drugs" spot? A PDFA press release says "the 'Fried Egg' TV message was so popular that it was satirized and spoofed on T-shirts, records labels, posters, and even on Saturday Night Live." If they're mocking us, we must be getting through to them!

NEXT: Lithographers to Starbucks: "The Whole World Is Watching, and You Are Being Judged."

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  1. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

  2. Anyone else remember
    “I learned it from watching you, Dad! I learned it from watching YOOOOO!!!!”

  3. Further evidence that talk-at-me advertising has been one of the greatest wastes of brainpower and money in the 21st century.

  4. Robert-“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

    Does that apply to the Partnership or to the drugs themselves?

  5. “The wise man mocks the man, the mocked man mocks the mocker.”

    When are these people going to realise that not only are they wrong, but they’re wasting their time?


  6. Ah, I remember that fried egg ad well. As I believe the best parody version of it went:

    This is your asshole: ?
    This is your asshole in prison: O
    Any questions?

  7. Oh well, obviously the “A” wasn’t supposed to be there.

  8. I know I’ve posted this several times before, including just the other day. But this thread crys out for a reposting.

    Setting: Sunny day in the park, father and son taking a stroll.

    Kid: Dad, did you ever do drugs?
    Dad:[stammers] Well uhh

    [guy with large Que cards (QCG) runs up and holds up card that reads:

    Dad: [Looks at card, begins reading, vaguely dispassionate]
    Yeah I did, and it was a dumb ?
    [shakes head begins speaking in engaged conversation voice ]
    Yeah, yeah I did. I did a lot of dumb things too. But I also had some great times. Some of the best moments of my life happened when I was high. Like the first time I made love to your mother.

    [QCG gets panicked look on face. Turns card over and reads it (twice) turns card back around and holds it up, waves it back and forth]

    Kid: Sooooo, you’re saying drugs made your life better?
    Dad: I’m saying that drugs are powerful things. And like all powerful things, you need to have a healthy fear of them. You see son, drugs, like cars, a little knowledge, and religion, can be very dangerous. But they can also be useful and life enhancing when used responsibly. It’s important that you educate yourself on the effects and risks before you start experimenting.

    [QCG rotates the “yeah I did” card to back of stack. He frantically waves the new top card which reads:

    Dad: [turns his back to QCG and faces his son] And the biggest risk of all is the fact that they’re illegal. Not only can you get arrested, but if you’re convicted you loose any chance of getting into college or landing a decent job. And of course there’s no FDA or even Consumer’s Reports to ensure purity and quality. For instance, Ecstasy is far safer than beer, but when you buy pills on the black market, there’s no way of knowing what is in them. You could be putting anything from sugar to cyanide in your body.

    [Father and son begin walking again. QCG violently throws the “no one ever” card away. His new card reads:
    He is walking backwards and jamming his finger at his card]

    Kid: So if making drugs illegal actually makes them more dangerous, why don’t we just end drug prohibition?
    Dad: Well it’s like I said son, people do a lot of dumb things.
    [Father and son continue talking and walk off together]
    [QCG trips and falls to ground, cards go flying. Close up on his face ? look of exasperation]
    QCG: I need a drink

  9. I never even thought about drugs and sex until I got to be about 12-13 and my youth group and Christian youth camp counselors would not freaking shut up about them as if every teen in the world was doing nothing but shooting up heroin and having massive orgies. I learned all about mutual masturbation from church.

  10. yeah, people are so afraid of kids learning about bad stuff that they’ll force the knowledge down your throat not in hopes that you’ll make a good decision, but that you’ll be part of their fanatic gang. They warn you about peer pressure by pressuring you to their way of thinking.

    I’m glad my parents developed a healthy dose of skepticism and sarcasm in me. I was much better at putting down those who were trying to brainwash me.

    As a consequence though, friendships never came easily. Oh well, atleast my mind is more or less my own.

  11. I was willing to be the first commenter, but the server squirrels were saying, “Hey, no way.”

    Here is a reconstruction of sorts to the best of my recollection:

    Is the GAO the Reasonoid subsidiary of the government?
    Imagine what the swashbuckling thoreau could do within the GAO, if he were willing to make a lateral transfer!

  12. I’m reminded of a joke…

    Kid on the subway, is asked for change by a homeless guy.

    Kid: You’re not going to spend the money on drugs, are you?
    Homeless guy: No, I need the money to buy food to stay alive.
    Kid: And you’re not going to buy violent video games?
    Homeless guy: What? Are you crazy?
    Kid: You’re not going to buy porn, are you?
    Homeless guy: Look, I just need it to eat.
    Kid: Alright, I’m not giving you a dollar. I’m taking you home to eat with my family.
    Homeless guy: Man, I know I’m all dirty and don’t smell too good…you sure it’s OK?
    Kid: Yeah, I want to show my mom what a guy looks like who doesn’t play violent video games, do drugs, or look at porn.

  13. Warren —

    .. I really love your script .. I’d love to see it made into a PSA (like that would happen!).. I’ve even passed it along to some friends so that they could get a laugh, too..

    .. but I’ve gotta tell ya.. but it’s Cue cards .. for giving the person a cue ..

    .. Hobbit

  14. JB

    Love it! I’m adding it to my joke collection. (As soon as I file the serial number off.)

  15. D.A.R.:

    Your joke works when I switch my browser to Unicode. I have NO idea why the server squirrels seem to favor an ISO default that is unkind to extended characteer sets. Maybe I need to learn a bit more about customizing a Mozilla-based browser?

    I used to piss off the counselor-types in high school by saying things like “Peer Pressure? For that to affect one, one would have to have peers.”


  16. I think that the flaw is clearly in the humor of the ads, all the recent ones when young people’s bodies are contorted under the “pressure” just make me grossed-out, or laugh. Instructing young people to make informed decisions as Warren illustrated might actually accomplish something.

  17. I’d be happy if they’d just re-run the commercials where Rachael Leigh Cook smashes up her kitchen with a frying pan.

  18. I took the time to RTFA (a rarity for me) and I found this gem near the bottom:

    “Walters said establishing a direct relationship between advertising exposure and outcomes is virtually impossible.”

    But…but…why am I a fat alcoholic? You mean it’s *MY* fault? NOOOoooo…!

  19. Anyone ever seen a drug-free person, other than a cop, wearing a D.A.R.E. t-shirt?

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